How Operation Kid Comfort Helped My Military Family: Part 1
Written by Jeanine Rickman
There is nothing quite like wrapping up in a personalized cozy blanket; the reassuring weight and warmth of a hand-sewn quilt, combined with being surrounded by images of loved ones, creates a comfort seldom found elsewhere.
Since so many military families endure long-term duty related separation, especially during deployments, it is very important to build community and resiliency. The Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) shares that 39% of military families experience these types of separations, while “43% of military families feel isolated from their communities” and has designed programs specifically to alleviate these situations.
Through Operation Kid Comfort, the ASYMCA provides personalized quilts to the children of deployed active-duty service members, reserves and national guard. These special deployment blankets are handcrafted by talented volunteers to comfort children while separated from their military parents. Here’s our experience…
Wrapped in Comfort with a Deployment Blanket
With a long deployment looming on the horizon, our family was already looking for ways to help our child cope with deployment. We knew we wanted to make the separation a bit easier for our youngest child, who just turned 8 years old. Previously, he had been young enough that he didn’t understand what Daddy being overseas meant, but this time he was aware and already had numerous questions and concerns.
My husband and I want to provide our son as much comfort and sense of security as possible, hoping that this will help him to finish the deployment being even more resilient. I remembered learning about the program Operation Kid Comfort while our son participated in Operation Little Learners. We decided that this was a perfect opportunity to help our son.
Step 1: Selecting Photos
Our first step for Operation Kid Comfort was going through all of our old family pictures to choose 9 quality images we would submit. Only 8 will go on the quilt, but they request an extra just in case. My husband really likes taking pictures, so we had many to go through.
There were a few photo guidelines on the request page that made it more challenging than expected but also helped narrow down the types of images we were looking at:
- All photos must include the service member with the child who is receiving the quilt and/or the service member alone.
- Only one (1) family photo is allowed per quilt.
- Pictures with any type of weapon (including toys), alcoholic drink, or inappropriate clothing will not be used.
- All individuals must be fully clothed; this includes infants.
It took us over a week to decide which photos we would use. An unforeseen bonus was that my husband and I were able to spend quality time together looking at family photos and talking about which ones we liked. We were able to reminisce over happy memories of our family growing over time. The process helped us feel closer to each other as a couple as we prepared for a long separation.
Step 2: Operation Kid Comfort Quilt Request
After we decided which pictures to use, we were able to start the Operation Kid Comfort quilt request process. Since we are stationed in San Diego, we registered with the Camp Pendleton ASYMCA Operation Kid Comfort Program. Our family has participated in local ASYMCA programs for many years, so we already had an active ASYMCA account. It was very simple to register under our son’s name and pay just $5.00 per child as a fee. We also filled out a questionnaire that asked the following questions:
- Child’s Favorite Color or Pattern
- Service Member’s Rank
- Deployment Readiness Officer’s Name
- Deployment Readiness Officer’s Phone Number
- Service Member’s Full Name
Step 3: Submitting Photos
After registration, we were able to submit our photos through a provided email. We did let them know that our son doesn’t go by his legal first name and what his preferred name is. This is important for us to include because some of the volunteer quilters include the child’s name, and we wanted our son to recognize it as his.
Now, we wait. Making the quilts does take time. The ASYMCA estimates 8-12 weeks for the quilts to be made after the photos are received and accepted. Although it seems like a long time when you are excited, we understand all the hard work that must go into making a personalized quilt. We’re so eager to surprise our son with his deployment blanket. It will definitely be worth the wait and will be fun to write about in a future blog.
Operation Kid Comfort Eligibility
Operation Kid Comfort provides quilts or pillow cases to children ages 0-12 of deployed active duty service military, reservists, and those in the national guard. It is one of the few programs available to all U.S. military branches and all ranks. Some of the locations have slightly different eligibility requirements, but all details are provided on the ASYMCA branch websites.
The ASYMCA also recognizes that not all military families experience long separations due to deployments only and encourages families to contact their appropriate ASYMCA branch if their family is separated for more than 6 months under other circumstances to see if they also qualify for the Operation Kid Comfort program.
Locations Providing These Deployment Blankets
While Operation Kid Comfort is available to all deployed service members, reservists, and national guards stationed within the continental U.S., Alaska and Hawaii, there are a few differences between locations.
- Alaska: For those stationed in Alaska, once current orders for deployment are issued, this program provides quilts with 9 photos for eligible children age 0-6 and standard pillow cases with 5 photos for those age 7 and older.
- Fort Bragg: Quilts are provided for children of deployed active duty service members stationed in North and South Carolina.
- Killeen: For those stationed at Fort Hood, once current orders for deployment are issued, this program provides quilts with 9 photos for eligible children age 0-6 and standard pillow cases with 5 photos for those age 7 and older.
- Camp Pendleton: Is willing to provide quilts with 8 photos by mail to eligible children ages 0-12 stationed anywhere else in the continuous U.S. and Hawaii for a $5.00 service fee per child and $15.00 flat rate toward shipping costs. Those local to Camp Pendleton, CA, may pick up in person.
Continue the Gift of Providing Comfort
Through Operation Kid Comfort, the ASYMCA provides so much more than blankets. They are giving comfort to military kids and reassuring service members and their families that they have the support of a caring community. To continue this program and others like it, please consider making a donation to ASYMCA today.